02 September, 2012

Territory, Soil and Society in South Asia

Territory, Soil and Society in South Asia

By- Daniela Berti and Gilles Tarabout (eds.)

This volume tackles a widespread stereotype in academic studies, according to which pre-colonial India consisted of territorial units with ill defined, fuzzy boundaries, and where territory had, and still has, little value as a cognitive category. In aiming to reconsider this perspective, the book follows two converging lines of enquiry. One explores the conceptions that stress the mutual determination of places and people, and the entrenchment of their identity in the soil. The other analyses historically and anthropologically the changing nature of the notion of territory, understood in its proper sense of a jurisdiction: an area where rights and power are exercised.

The investigation starts from the devaluation of religious territory in Vedic ritual texts, checks later developments of divine territories in relation to temples, details various types of ‘traditional’ jurisdictions, and ends up with an analysis of recent ethnicization of the Nation as shown in Hindutva produced videos. The book combines a diversity of sources (ethnographical, archival, textual and inscriptions), used by an international team of authors trained in different disciplines (Indology, history of religion, social anthropology). These approaches provide contrasting pictures of the plural conceptions and symbolic manipulations of territory in the Indian world from early times to the present day. The studies invite a comparison with other societies, based on the recognition of the historicity and plurality of territorial organizations that are at the core of human relationships.

Daniela Berti, a social anthropologist at the CNRS (Paris), has carried out fieldwork in Himachal Pradesh on rituals, on religion and local politics, and on the local entrenchment of Hindutva. She is currently leading an international project on judicial interactions.

Gilles Tarabout, a social anthropologist at the CNRS (Paris), has specialized in the study of Kerala’s society. He has co-edited volumes on violence and non-violence, religious mediumship, conceptions of the body, Islam and Christianity, transformations of rituals, conflicts and constitutionalism.

ISBN  978-81-7304-782-4    2009   380p.   Rs.950/ pounds 55

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